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  1. Opinion

Selected readings from the left and from the right

Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
The Problem We All Live With is a 1964 painting by Norman Rockwell. An iconic image of the civil rights movement in the United States, it depicts Ruby Bridges, a six-year-old African-American girl, on her way into an all-white public school in New Orleans on Nov. 14, 1960 during the process of racial desegregation. Because of threats and violence against her, she is escorted by four deputy U.S. marshals. [ROCKWELL, NORMAN | File photo]
Published Aug. 23

We live in a partisan age, and our news habits can reinforce our own perspectives. Consider this an effort to broaden our collective outlook with essays beyond the range of our typical selections. Jim Verhulst of the Tampa Bay Times editorial board compiled these summaries.

FROM THE LEFT

From “If Trump Were an Airline Pilot,” by James Fallows in the Atlantic.

The context, from the author: We’ve had something (from President Donald Trump) we didn’t see so clearly during the campaign. These are episodes of what would be called outright lunacy, if they occurred in any other setting: An actually consequential rift with a small but important NATO ally, arising from the idea that the U.S. would “buy Greenland.” Trump’s self-description as “the Chosen One,” and his embrace of a supporter’s description of him as the “second coming of God” and the “King of Israel.”

The excerpt: If Donald Trump were in virtually any other position of responsibility, action would already be under way to remove him from that role. The board at a public company would have replaced him outright or arranged a discreet shift out of power. (Of course, he would never have gotten this far in a large public corporation.) The chain-of-command in the Navy or at an airline or in the hospital would at least call a time-out, and check his fitness, before putting him back on the bridge, or in the cockpit, or in the operating room.

From “The Integration Success Stories,” by Michelle Adams in the New Republic.

The context, from the author: School segregation is on the rise. Can decades of data on thriving, integrated schools show the way forward?

The excerpt: (The study’s) findings are clear. Segregation allowed whites to hoard economic, social and educational resources. Desegregation had exactly the opposite effect. School districts under court order almost immediately experienced a reduction in black-white segregation, an increase in per-pupil spending and a reduction in class sizes for black children. Black students didn’t need whites to sit next to them to learn. But gaining access to the resources they had — smaller class sizes, more qualified teachers, enhanced support services, increases in instructional time, more counselors and administrators — did wonders. Students who were educated in districts under court-ordered desegregation got a better quality education than those in the control group, which translated into significant educational gains.

From “Dear Democrats, the Mainstream Media Are Not Your Friends,” by Eric Alterman in the Nation.

The context, from the author: Misplaced trust in the media has repeatedly led to disastrous Democratic presidential debates.

The excerpt: It’s as if (Democratic) party leaders have bought into the lie that the media has a liberal bias and so expect at least a fair shake when they present their case to the voters. This repeated triumph of hope over experience has a pathetic quality to it, not unlike, say, Charlie Brown with Lucy and that football. Forty years of right-wing working the refs has so intimidated members of the mainstream media that they put on kid gloves when dealing with conservative politicians.

FROM THE RIGHT

From “Courage Is the Cure for Political Correctness,” by David French in the National Review.

The context, from the author: Resist the temptation to censor yourself and speak up for your views. No one said the fight against intolerance would be easy.

The excerpt: the prevalence of conservative timidity is both worrisome and self-reinforcing. I’ve had multiple conversations with tenured professors — including some on the center-left — who say they’re “terrified” of their own students, despite enjoying the kind of job security most Americans could only dream of. On occasion I’ve talked to professors who not only shut their doors but spoke in whispers rather than risk outing their views on matters such as same-sex marriage. As a consequence, conservatives often feel more isolated and alone than they truly are.


From “I was wrong about Trump. Here’s why,” by Anthony Scaramucci in the Washington Post.

The context, from the author: I thought Trump, despite his warts, could bring a pragmatic, entrepreneurial approach to the Oval Office. I thought he could be the reset button Washington needed to break through the partisan sclerosis.

The excerpt: I broke from Trump because not only has his behavior become more erratic and his rhetoric more inflammatory, but also because, like all demagogues, he is incapable of handling constructive criticism. As we lie on the bed of nails Trump has made, it’s often difficult to see how much the paradigm of acceptable conduct has shifted. For the Republican Party, it’s now a question of whether we want to start cleaning up the mess or continue papering over the cracks. I challenge my fellow Republicans to summon the nerve to speak out on the record against Trump. Defy the culture of fear he has created, and go public with the concerns you readily express in private.

From “No, America Wasn’t Built On Slavery, But Faith That All Men Are Created Equal,” by Joshua Lawson in the Federalist.

The context, from the author: Viewing the centuries-old actions of men through a 21st-century lens will not solve our present social tensions. Slavery was a heart-wrenching, obstacle during America’s birth, but by no objective analysis was it the central factor of the founding.

The excerpt: Slavery was and is an abomination. The ownership of one man over another is an affront to both natural law and our God-given inalienable rights as human beings. It is an evil part of America’s past—as well as that of nearly every nation on earth. The fact that slavery has a universal heritage does not absolve American slave owners, but it does provide a necessary historical context.




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